Ilkeston entertained top of the table Syston on Saturday and played their part in an entertaining game, eventually losing 31-20.
Syston began with the slope advantage and made all the early running although both sides were making uncharacteristic handling errors making it a scrappy opening.
The first major incident of the game came on 28 minutes and it made Ilkeston’s task that bit harder as Isaac Taylor was shown a straight red card for a spear tackle after Syston attacked through midfield.
The remaining Elks 14 stepped up their game and defended heroically as Syston tried to gain the upper hand, with Alex Ayres in particular tackling strongly.
Elks had an attacking line-out and after Chris Tipton caught well, the maul was driven forward but illegally dragged down, this time Syston reduced to 14 for ten minutes after receiving a yellow card.
Elks kicked for touch and again won line-out ball, Tom Pottinger was on the attack and the ball recycled for Hugh Smith to have a charge. He was halted but the ball again recycled to Tom Hicks who crashed over in the right corner on the stroke of half-time.
Jono Falls missed the extras but the Elks led 5-0 at the break.
Syston replied early in the second-half as after the Elks were penalised at a breakdown Syston took a quick tap and sped through a flat footed defence to score under the posts, extras added to make it 7-5 to the visitors after 44 minutes.
After Ilkeston’s Matt Watkins was then yellow-carded on 48 minutes, Syston caught a line-out and drove over almost immediately to stretch their lead to 12-5 with the extras missed.
Elks responded well and after Syston were caught offside in front of the posts, Falls slotted over the penalty to make it 12-8 to Syston.
Syston came back strongly and put pressure on the Elks scrum. The ball was turned over and their centre found space to sprint clear and score after 59 minutes, extras missed but the Elks had shipped ten points whilst down to 13 men.
The visitors then added another converted try on 63 minutes from a counter-attack but again Ilkeston responded well and man-of-the-match Tipton went over from five metres after a good move that he’d started, Falls adding the extras to reduce the arrears to 24-15.
But Syston weren’t fazed and scored again as the Elks tired with just 14 men, the conversion added to make it 31-15 in their favour.
There was still time for Jake Lamb to dart over for another Ilkeston score in the dying moments, but the damage was done and despite a much-improved display the Elks had been beaten.